If the South Central football coaches are right, Hillsboro High won't be favored in many games this fall; according to a poll in Monday (Aug. 26) State Journal-Register, the Toppers should finish eighth in the ten-team conference.
Coach Aaron Duff isn't concerned, citing an old adage that he'd rather be in position to surprise another team than hold favored status -- that puts a target on a team's back.
Coach Duff said he's pleased with squad numbers (55 freshman through seniors) and depth on both lines and in the backfield/receiving corps.
Inexperience will be a factor early; some of the starters are sophomores and others are players who sat out last year. At least the team can gain experience in the first game (against Piasa Southwestern at home); it will be an easier opener than Carlinville, last year's opener, would be.
Coach Duff said he was happy with his squad's attendance and attitude at summer activities; now it's time to take the wrapping off the package to see what emerges. The veteran coach said newcomers to pay attention to our juniors Ben Taylor and Jackson Hamby and sophomores Aiden Scroggins, Magnus Wells, and Ian Malloy, among others. Junior Drew Willman is almost a newcomer as weight room work has turned his once slight frame into a solid 180 pounds. On a negative note, junior Marshall Hughes is lost for the season because of a non-football injury.
Barring further injuries or late developments in practice, Coach Duff expects this lineup to take the field defensively: defensive ends Jude Bertolino and Brett Cunningham; nose guard Wells; outside linebackers Hamby and Scroggins; inside linebackers Jonah Harkins and Willman; cornerbacks Joey Lipe and Andrew Law; and safeties Jace Tuetken and Dylan McCammack.
Also expected to be on the field defensively as the need arises are Brady Huber, Curtis Segrest, Zinner Kenney, and Taylor.
Offensively, Tuetken has earned the starting nod at quarterback with Harkins the featured running back in either the spread or the Power I. Coach Duff expects to also use Bertolino, Taylor, Willman, and Lipe in the backfield, with Bertolino shifting to tight end if a short yardage Double Tight End power formation is needed. The split end is Dominic Bates.
Size is predominant on the offensive line. McCammack will be the tight end (and backup quarterback). The tackles are Malloy (6'2", 220) and Cooper Holcomb (6'0", 275); guards are Cunningham (6"3", 210) and Huber (6"2", 215), and the center is Finn Tysko (5"10", 190).
Others who will have playing time on offensive include Kenney, Scroggins, Wells (6"3", 235), and Tyson Compagni.
Tuetken is slated to be the punter, with Wells to kick off. Newcomer Chance Murray hopes to do place kicking, but he was injured early in fall practice and has yet to hone his skills. Tysko will do the long snapping. Double safeties for kick off returns will be Lipe and Taylor, while the battle to be the punt returner goes on.
Coach Duff emphasized that the lineups are tentative only, apt to change as the game and the season play out.
Kick off time is 7 p.m. at Sawyer Field on Friday night, Aug. 31.